Having a Mind of Abundance
Talk by Tom Baker
September 28, 2008, The Fellowship of the Inner Light
It's been helluva week in Lake Wogbegone, Garrison Keiller's hometown. In fact it's been a wild week in hometowns all over the country. I visited my own hometown, Louisville, KY last week. While I was there I met with my father, my father who lived through the depression and who has been getting ready for the next depression all of his own Wobegone life. When he shook my hand he said, "It's back. Cultivate a taste for soup. Prepare to stand in line." Although there was worry in his eyes, there was a kind of elation in his voice. A tone that almost said, "The doom is here at last. The great moment has finally come." He waxed eloquent on the failure of the markets, the greed of Wall Street, the incompetence of the president (Mr. Hoover in cowboy boots), and the prospect of an America in rags, no more Starbucks, Katie Couric panhandling on Broadway, David Letterman telling jokes to hobos. Now my father is a little over the top when it comes to poverty, overly dramatic. But we all have a deep sense that we do not have enough, that we are not enough, that if only we had more money, more time, more friends, more of something we would be OK.
It's interesting to me that 80% of the parables have to do with money: the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, the parable of the talents, the lost coin. The reason Jesus was so popular was not because he was the Son of God, but because he was constantly multiplying food and wine and it was all free. With Jesus the odor of sanctity was not incense but the smell of cooking. The Sermon on the Mount probably smelled like a fish fry. The Catholics got that one right. Jesus, very simply, brought abundance into a world that was, and still is, built around loss, lack, and leaving.
Loss and lack and leaving are what we believe in. In fact we're committed to it. We're enthusiastic about it. Every commercial on television tells your subconscious that you are in constant need: you need to eat more, you need to lose weight, you need to have an erection, you need to go to the nearest emergency room if it last more than four hours. You need to eat more fiber, you need to sleep more, you need to work harder, you need to have more fun, you need to whiten your teeth, you need to control your blood pressure, you need plastic surgery, you need to vote, you need to not care, you need insurance, you need to save for college, you need to get married, you need to get divorced, you need to speak up, you need to meditate, you need to balance your life, you need a vacation, you need a break. Necessity is the mother of invention. Need is the father of desperation.
When I was first dating my wife I confessed in a trembling voice that I needed her. She asked me not to need her, but to want her. "If you need me," she said, "I will lose my freedom, but you want me I will sparkle with desire." Jesus did not ask people what they needed; he asked them what they wanted. He said that they already had what they needed: "Observe the lilies of the field, they neither spin nor sew, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these; have another fish sandwich."
In addition to being obsessed with loss and lack, our solution to most trouble is either to leave or to quit. "I'm out of here, I'm history, I'm over it, leave me alone, good-bye." Someone once told me that the sound of most marital arguments was a slamming door and a car roaring away. We know well the devastating effect of abandonment so we use it for a weapon, over and over again. That's why Jesus said, "I am with you always, even unto the end of time." Why over and over again in moments of crisis you and I have said to people we cared about, "I'm right here. Together with God we can make it through this."
Yet changing needing to wanting, and abandonment to solidarity is only the beginning of developing a consciousness of abundance. The big step is the one we know but don't quite believe. Notice I said we know it. We know that having relies on giving. Not giving to get, that's trying to do business with God, making a deal with grace. Just giving is the secret of having. Whenever we have given with our whole hearts, abundance fills us like the morning sun fills a kitchen. When anything is truly given, wholeheartedly, with joy and abandon and spontaneous grace, in that moment, we have everything. When you reached out and held your child for the first time, when you loved anything without reservation, when you said "yes" to life in a tiny way or a big way, when you were kind or gentle or generous without any thought as to the outcome, suddenly you were abundant. Even if your wallet was empty and your credit card was maxed out, you possessed the universe. You weren't folded up, you were reaching out: Your body language said "I give to you, not I protect myself from you. We never see images of Jesus or the Buddha with their arms folded across their chest. Giving develops the consciousness of having and the consciousness of having opens the way to the consciousness of being. When we sing we do not lose the song, we possess it more fully. All giving is like singing; when giving is done consistently in joy you become what you give. You become the song you sing and song sings you.
In the next weeks and months we're going to hear more and more about bail outs and the scarcity of credit and the loss of confidence in wall street and the lack of prosperity on main street and the need to elect Barack or the need to elect John or the need to fire Ben or Hank and the need to banish George W. to some Republican hell where Nixon and Hoover and Martha Stewart are breaking rocks, and you will need Ambien to sleep and you will need Starbucks to wake up and you will need American Idol to keep going; at least that is what you will be told. Don't believe it.
Let go of need, replace it with want, and practice giving all of yourself to someone you love. In these dreary weeks and months take someone's hand (or paw) and look into their eyes and give to them the love you and they are. And as you do so know that your name and their name is Abundance and your destiny and their destiny is joy.
© Copyright Tom Baker 2008